Chapter 10:

Blue Flames

The Songstress of Avalon

"Are you sure about this?" a voice in my mind echoed. "I thought you didn't want to rely on my power anymore, Ayato?"

I ignored it.

Some philosopher or other once wrote that, when we are tired, we are assailed by ideas conquered long ago. But sometimes, you had no choice but to rely on these old 'ideas'. For me, at least, I couldn't draw on the full power of the Heavenly Flames without going back to him.

To who? Well, to Rakshasa, of course.

A shrill laugh pulsated through my heart and mind. As its mocking timbre faded away into the ether, bright blue flames appeared on my hands, a stark contrast to the regular orange and red flames I produced unaided. The power in my hands was capable of destroying this constructed world many times over, I knew.

Lightning began to cackle around us, surely a physical manifestation of Mab's tempestuous emotions. I was suddenly grateful that we were under the cover of the gazebo; looking over at the Queen of Fairies again, I noticed that her eyes were glued to the blue flames in my hands, but her thoughts clearly lay elsewhere. She did not even seem to take notice of the inclement weather.

In comparison, Arisa had leapt under a table at the encroachment of the storm.

"I'm going to destroy this world," I said to Mab for the third time.

"THEN DO IT ALREADY!" Arisa shouted against the rising wind.

Mab looked contemplatively around her at the landscape, as though she were savouring her last view of this artificial world where she had spent so many happy days with her lover. Just as the blue flames were beginning to get restless, she turned to me and nodded.

"Then let me tear this entire world asunder..." I recited, my hands beginning to tingle profusely. "Heavenly Wildfire!" I dropped to a single knee, slamming my open palms onto the floor - immediately, the flames emanating from my hands began to spread around us, bathing the entirety of the gazebo in a sea of blue fire.

Soon, this entire world would be engulfed.

"So this is the power of the hero..." Mab murmured thoughtfully under her breath.

Arisa's opinion was more irreverent. She had crawled out from under the table, and once again was shouting against the booming thunder and the roaring wind.

"Why are you," she cried out, "calling out your attack like some anime character? Talk about embarrassing!"

"This is necessary!" I shot back, rising and detaching my hands from the ground; by now, the blue flames had already spread as far as the eye could see. It was an incredibly destructive "AoE move", and the best part was that it could differentiate between friend and foe, so I could use it without having to worry about Arisa or Mab.

"Calling out your moves gives it more power, huh? I remember Tommaso saying something along those lines..." Mab mused, and I couldn't help but wonder if she was thinking about something dirty. 

Suddenly, she was somber again. "Not that I think you needed to use a particularly powerful attack. A creation like this... it'll probably collapse on itself."

She was right to say that this world would probably collapse soon. It was a core tenet of construction magic, however, rather than any shoddiness in Mab's craftsmanship. When it came to these kinds of artificial constructs, you could destroy the whole simply by smashing a sizable chunk of it.

The same rules applied to clone magic. A clone created from magic has a physical form and is fully capable of hurting you, but you cleave it in half and it dissipates into the ether. It doesn't fall to the ground in two pieces. This was the case with these artificial landscapes, and can be contrasted with other forms of artificial construct such as golems or...

No, this was no time for a lecture on magical theory.

Much like the hypothetically maimed clone, the world around us began to melt away. The table Arisa had been hiding under turned to mere granules before our eyes, as did everything else in the vicinity. It was though we were suspended in a beam of light, a world devoid of anything material except for the three of us.

Mab let out a sigh, almost doleful, whereas Arisa shrieked. Clearly, she thought she was going to fall, which was an understandable reaction given that were no longer standing on anything solid. But we didn't fall, since there was nothing to fall into. Having had experience with this before, I stayed mostly calm. However, when Arisa leapt into my arms, I couldn't suppress my surprise. 

"What are you doi--?"

"We're going to fall! We're too... eh?"

She squirmed in my arms, but quickly stopped when she realised that I had remained mostly stationary, my arms only swaying in accordance with her movements, and that was only because I didn't have the heart to drop her. 

When she stopped flailing around, our eyes met.

But we were no longer looking at each other against the whiteness of uninhabited space. Instead, we were locked in an intimate embrace in the middle of Delfino Gardens. The maze was nowhere in sight, as though it never existed and that everything had transpired in it was nothing but a collectively shared fever dream. 

The gardens' lunchtime crowd were eyeing us strangely. 

"Maaaaamaaaa, look at those two!" a young girl was pointing at us, the two curiosities which had suddenly appeared in front of her. 

The shock of hearing that girlish voice, so unfamiliar to my ears, caused me to lose my balance. As Arisa fell on top of me, the little girl's mother dragged her away from the spectacle. The other onlookers also avoided us and I knew that few, if any, of them had bothered to wonder where we had appeared from.

"Aren't you two getting a bit too cosy?" Mab's voice broke my reverie.

Arisa staggered off of me and onto her feet, and I did likewise. In the light of the day, the cool breeze gently blowing her hair, Mab's beauty had an almost ethereal quality to it. It was fitting considering that her presence was the only evidence of our experiences in that otherworldly garden.

"Where are you going to go now?" Arisa asked, almost eagerly.

"Oh, Hook Head might be the best bet," she looked almost uneasy. "It's not too far by train."

"What about a place to live? You don't have a house down there, do you?" I chimed in.

"An old friend of mine, Maggie May, runs an inn there," Mab replied. "I'm sure she can put me up, even if it's on short notice... if I leave now, I can get there by dinnertime."

"I see..." I began to say, and then, "if you ever need help, please don't hesitate to contact me at the embassy."

"Thank you," Mab gave a slight curtsy. "Not just for the offer, but for everything. If it wasn't for you two, I may have stayed there for another one hundred years..."

"I still don't know if I did the right thing or not," I admitted, with more than a tinge of uncertainty. "But I didn't want Tommo's child to grow up hating humans."

Mab responded to that line with a wry smile. After uttering her goodbyes and an invitation to visit once the baby was born, the Queen of Fairies and Dreams disappeared, presumably to make reality the dream which she and Tommo had shared once upon a time, not so long ago.

I found myself staring at the clock tower overlooking the gardens.

"So much for a quick walk," I chuckled. "Let's get back, shall we?"

Arisa didn't have any complaints about my suggestion; as I began walking towards the exit, she followed. As we passed through the garden gates, I noticed that Arisa's hand was hovering just over her stomach, much like what Mab was doing earlier whenever the topic of her unborn baby came up.

For the entirety of our walk, just under ten minutes, she never let her hand drop. Even as we ascended the stairs to the embassy doors, her hand remained in the air, now pressed lightly against her stomach. My eyes widened, and somewhat exasperated, I began to speak, my head full of fantastical tales relating to incubi.  

"Why are-," I stammered.

She cut me off.

"I'm hungry."

I could have thrust my fist through the embassy's double doors. Cursing myself for conjuring up the most inane images in my head, I pushed open the doors with more force than usual and called out to Arisa, standing a couple of feet behind me.

"Let's get something to eat then," I entered the embassy and immediately noticed the three pairs of eyes staring back at me - one belonged to Marissa, as expected, but the other two were a surprise.

Misane was seated on the waiting room couch, her long black hair tied up into twin tails which descended down her back. Although she almost never left the library, she did make the occasional appearance so the fact that she was here was rare, but not completely out of the ordinary.

It was the person sitting beside her who caught me most by surprise.

He stood up to his full height of five foot when he saw me approaching, the front of his comically big, wide brimmed hat dropped slightly to obscure misty brown eyes. A slender arm shot out of a ragged poncho and waved in my direction, but this arm, which beckoned to me so eagerly, was horribly deformed.

Black as tar and pulsating with blains and pustules, it had all the characteristics one might associate with a victim of curse magic.

Steward McOy